With Valentine's day just around the corner I thought it would be a nice idea to write a blog post about love. As a single woman I have learned and continue to learn much about love, heart-ache and taking risks. Growing up I watched lots of films, musicals and operas with strong themes of love. This has created unrealistic expectations in my mind about what love can be. I dream that one day someone would be willing to die for me, and I for them. A love that is selfless, giving and eternal. If you ever find this kind of love, hold on to it. It is a rare and special thing.
And if you have already found it (you lucky thing), let that person know you love them every day.
Someone came into my life recently and shared with me this letter from John Steinbeck about love that he wrote in 1958. I think that it is beautiful and moving and realistic. What a wonderful letter from father to son!
In November of 1958, John Steinbeck — the renowned author of, most notably, The Grapes of Wrath, East of Eden, and Of Mice and Men — received a letter from his eldest son, Thom, who was attending boarding school. In it, the teenager spoke of Susan, a young girl with whom he believed he had fallen in love.
Steinbeck replied the same day. His beautiful letter of advice can be enjoyed below.
(Source: Steinbeck: A Life in Letters; Image: Thom and John Steinbeck with their father in 1954, courtesy of UC Berkeley.)
November 10, 1958
We had your letter this morning. I will answer it from my point of view and of course Elaine will from hers.
First—if you are in love—that’s a good thing—that’s about the best thing that can happen to anyone. Don’t let anyone make it small or light to you.
Second—There are several kinds of love. One is a selfish, mean, grasping, egotistical thing which uses love for self-importance. This is the ugly and crippling kind. The other is an outpouring of everything good in you—of kindness and consideration and respect—not only the social respect of manners but the greater respect which is recognition of another person as unique and valuable. The first kind can make you sick and small and weak but the second can release in you strength, and courage and goodness and even wisdom you didn’t know you had.
You say this is not puppy love. If you feel so deeply—of course it isn’t puppy love.
But I don’t think you were asking me what you feel. You know better than anyone. What you wanted me to help you with is what to do about it—and that I can tell you.
Glory in it for one thing and be very glad and grateful for it.
The object of love is the best and most beautiful. Try to live up to it.
If you love someone—there is no possible harm in saying so—only you must remember that some people are very shy and sometimes the saying must take that shyness into consideration.
Girls have a way of knowing or feeling what you feel, but they usually like to hear it also.
It sometimes happens that what you feel is not returned for one reason or another—but that does not make your feeling less valuable and good.
Lastly, I know your feeling because I have it and I’m glad you have it.
We will be glad to meet Susan. She will be very welcome. But Elaine will make all such arrangements because that is her province and she will be very glad to. She knows about love too and maybe she can give you more help than I can.
And don’t worry about losing. If it is right, it happens—The main thing is not to hurry. Nothing good gets away.
Jennifer Coleman is a soprano who works as a classical singer and vocal coach. Available for performances across the UK and internationally.